Governor Paul LePage Holds Tax Reform Plan Town Hall in Belfast (4/28/15 videos)

Posted on May 7, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

4/28/15 at the UMaine Hutchinson Center. About 180-200 attendees. Videos of the event are below; link to photos taken here.



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Maine LCRED Committee Holds Public Hearings on Right to Work, Union Busting Bills

Posted on May 7, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

5/4/15 public hearings held in 127th Maine State Legislature’s standing Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development (LCRED) Committee on the following bills:

LD 404, An Act To Prohibit Public Employers from Acting as Collection Agents for Labor Unions
Rep. Lockman of Amherst

LD 489, An Act To Ensure the Right To Work without Payment of Dues or Fees to a Labor Union as a Condition of Employment
Rep. Lockman of Amherst

LD 1010, An Act To Afford Public Employers Flexibility To Achieve Efficiency and Quality in Management
Sen. Cushing of Penobscot

LD 1319, An Act To Ensure That Wages and Benefits of Maine State Employees Serve a Public Purpose
Rep. Ward of Dedham

LD 1351, An Act To Ensure that Membership of Public Employees in Unions is Voluntary
Rep. Stetkis of Canaan

LD 1353, An Act To Prohibit Mandatory Membership in a Union or Payment of Agency Fees as a Condition of Employment
Sen. Cushing of Penobscot

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Reactions to LePage 2014 State of the State Address (VIDEO, TEXT, PHOTOS)

Posted on February 9, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

In the hours prior to Maine Governor Paul LePage delivering his annual State of the State address, press conferences were held by leadership of both parties at the State House. Senate President Justin Alfond recorded his own video address as part of a press release:

    “Tonight, Governor Paul LePage will deliver the State of the State to the Legislature and to the people of Maine.
    For those of you who listen tonight, you may agree with what the Governor has outlined. Or you may not. But one thing all of us, as Mainers, agree on is that we want to live in a state that prospers.

    • We want to know that our children will have a more secure and brighter future than our own.
    • We want to know that our parents, as they age in to their twilight years, can do so with dignity.
    • We want to know that if we work hard, we can pay our bills and put away money for our future.
    • We know what a growing, and prosperous economy looks like.

    It’s an economy where our small businesses are thriving and innovating, with access to capital, and a skilled workforce. It’s where our kids get an exceptional education from our public schools–from pre-K to college and beyond. And where they choose to stay in Maine because the opportunities that lie ahead of them exist right here-in Maine. It’s where families don’t live in fear that mounting medical bills will lead to bankruptcy or the loss of their home. And it’s where the Maine economy is leveraging our competitive advantages–like our cities and town centers, our working forests, farms and coast land to attract people and new businesses.

    Mainers have a long history of prospering. And we can do it again. But we’ve got some work to do.

    The number of families who are living in poverty and homeless is rising more than ever before. In fact, and sadly, one in four children in Maine is hungry–it’s the third highest rate of child hunger in the nation. That’s unacceptable. Our economy is still lagging behind the rest of our New England neighbors and job growth is nearly stagnant. While our New England neighbors have regained ALL of their jobs lost during the recession, Maine has only regained one-third.

    We can do better than that.

    As lawmakers you put us in charge to make the tough choices and come up with solutions to these challenges. And you’re right: it’s up to us. Inevitably there are those places where we may not find agreement–whether it’s providing health care to 70,000 Mainers, including 3,000 veterans through MaineCare expansion or keeping our funding promise to Maine’s towns and cities through revenue sharing. There’s plenty of room for disagreement but when political rhetoric trumps good policy, no one wins. We were sent to Augusta to serve the people of Maine.

    It’s been said before: no one party has the monopoly on good ideas. And, it’s true. The people of Maine don’t care if it’s a Democratic idea or a Republican idea, they want solutions. We must work together to find those areas of common ground. Areas where we can work together–with our Republican colleagues and with the Governor to move our state forward.”

Immediately after the Governor concluded his 40 minute delivery before the joint convention, all Democratic leaders met in Speaker of the House Mark Eves’ office with media to give their analysis of LePage’s speech. Here is a full recording of their reactions.

    “Maine needed to hear real solutions from Governor LePage. Instead, he offered the same old ideas that have already failed our state,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “Maine needs a blueprint to grow our economy and instead Governor LePage offered pages from his divisive political playbook. Maine deserves better than bad policy and political rhetoric.”

    (L-R) House Majority Leader Seth Berry, Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, Senate President Justin Alfond, Speaker of the House Mark Eves, Asst House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, Asst Senate Majority Leader Anne Haskell.

    (L-R) House Majority Leader Seth Berry, Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, Senate President Justin Alfond, Speaker of the House Mark Eves, Asst House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, Asst Senate Majority Leader Anne Haskell.

    “We were hoping to hear a positive vision to move our state forward and create opportunity for all, but instead Governor LePage rolled out divisive and failed policies that will only hurt our economy and our people,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “He continued to make the same old excuses to deny life-saving health care to tens of thousands of Mainers, including nearly 3,000 veterans. We know the consequences of not accepting federal health care dollars are deadly. Plus, we are losing out on more than $700,000 per day to create jobs and stimulate our economy – that’s more than $24 million in the last month alone.”

    “Right to work isn’t what it sounds like. It’s shorthand for driving down wages so hardworking Mainers earn less–$1,500 less in fact. That’s the wrong way to treat Maine workers,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “We need a leader who will focus on how to shrink the income inequality not divide it further. Maine deserves a leader who will hold up the ladder of opportunity, not yank it up behind him, leaving the working poor with little to no opportunities.”

    Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook): The Governor's "open for business" zones are more like the Twilight Zone.

    Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook): The Governor’s “open for business” zones are more like the Twilight Zone.

    “How many times does Maine have to say no to TABOR? This is nothing more than TABOR 3.0,“ said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. “Maine needs a fair tax code. Instead, Governor LePage wants to cut services and hike property taxes for the middle class yet again.”

    “While Governor LePage puts down struggling Mainers, Maine children are going to bed at night with empty tummies,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. “It’s unacceptable that one in four of Maine children is hungry, and Governor LePage has failed to offer any solutions.”

    “Governor LePage doesn’t realize we can’t arrest our way out of Maine’s drug problem,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Anne Haskell of Portland. “Law enforcement cannot do this alone; we need to address addiction by treating it as the disease it is or Maine will continue to lose.”

AARP Maine was quick to note an almost complete lack of acknowledgment by the Governor of the state’s large elderly population and their concerns:

    “On behalf of our more than 230,000 members in Maine, AARP expects strong executive and legislative leadership across party lines,” said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director. “As the Governor stated, ‘it is time to put politics aside.’” AARP Maine was both surprised and concerned tonight that the discussion of fiscal security for families in Maine did not include any discussion of Mainers 50+. “Maine is the oldest state in the nation and these issues need to be addressed,” said Parham.

    AARP is disappointed with the Governor’s remarks regarding the expansion of affordable health care coverage in Maine.

    “AARP is working to ensure that older Americans who have lost their jobs and are struggling to find new ones can obtain needed health care,” said Parham. “People 50+ are, on average, out of work longer than their younger counterparts. AARP is deeply committed to ensuring that people between the ages of 50-64 without healthcare have options for coverage. This is a key component of retirement security for older Mainers.” Expanding Medicaid will give people without health care insurance access to preventive care that can save lives, ease overall health care costs and infuse millions into local economies.

    While AARP recognizes that Maine faces challenges in being the oldest state, there are opportunities which are important to acknowledge. Boomers come with income, energy, skills and a commitment to give back. More than 33 million people nationwide over the age of 45 volunteered their time and talents in 2012. The largest growing age group of entrepreneurs is aged 54-64; especially important in entrepreneurial Maine. Boomers feel a powerful sense of legacy to make their communities stronger for their kids, grandkids and future generations. “While we want to attract young people to Maine, we should not ignore what Boomers already offer Maine and our economy,” said Parham.

    “As the oldest state,” she said, “we must work to build a strong and diverse coalition of partners to change the nature of the conversation, to show how the greying of Maine provides economic opportunities for the state and its business and non-profit sectors.”

Maine AFL-CIO was also disappointed in the address, noting as did Senator Jackson that the “Open for Business Zone” proposal was simply an attack on unions:

    The Governor’s proposal to create “Open for Business” zones–in particular, the “right to work” provision– is part of a national agenda to undermine the middle class and lower wages and working conditions for all workers.

    “This is just a recycled and repackaged version of the same old divisive policies from the Governor. It would do nothing but hurt hard working, middle class families like mine,” said Scott Bolduc, a firefighter in Bangor. “This plan hurts public safety and our communities. What we need is a Governor that is focused on real issues like raising wages and tackling inequality,” he said.

    “You can put a new coat of paint on it, but both Democrats and Republicans have already rejected these proposals. That’s because we can all agree these proposals are a bad idea. They would limit collective bargaining rights, and hurt everyday people we count on like firefighters, teachers and nurses,” said Cokie Giles, a nurse at EMMC.

    Giles went on, “‘Right to Work’ limits collective bargaining rights and hurts everyday people we count on, like firefighters, teachers and nurses. By making it harder for workers to bargain for safe patient staffing ratios in hospitals, needed emergency equipment, and smaller class sizes, our communities suffer. The Governor wants to make it harder for nurses to be a strong voice for safe staffing and patient safety.”

    Bolduc concluded, “The Governor’s proposal is a recycled gimmick that is more sound bite than substance. It will do nothing to improve the lives of hard working Mainers.”

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Maine Governor Paul LePage’s 2014 State of the State Address (VIDEOS, TEXT, PHOTOS)

Posted on February 9, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

speechMaine Governor Paul LePage stood before a joint convention of the 126th Legislature on Tuesday evening and gave his 2014 State of the State Address.

As expected, LePage touched upon a number of topics already known to be potential focal points, touted what some fellow Republicans had earlier described as accomplishments by the administration and put forth some surprising new proposals, including creation of what he described as “Open for Business Zones”, which would benefit large companies with discounted electrical rates, access to Maine capital, decreased tax rates and be free of unions, ie, small in-state “right to work” zones. Few specifics on these zones have yet to be released by the administration other than that covered by the Governor in his address.

LePage surprised lawmakers by calling for a statewide TABOR referendum, similar to the efforts that voters voted down in 2006 and 2009.

He also seized the opportunity to speak before a large television audience as an opportunity to go off script, scolding legislators and deliver much of the same rhetoric that Maine has heard from LePage many times over the past three years in what some labelled a campaign defining moment:

    “Gov. Paul LePage’s third State of the State address was delivered to an assembly of Maine lawmakers, but Tuesday’s 50-minute speech was directed at the two men with the best chance of keeping him out of the Blaine House for another four years.

    Using a television audience and scolding and swaggering rhetoric, LePage laid out broad policy initiatives that have little chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled Legislature but will show Mainers a sharp distinction between his vision for the state and that of his challengers, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler.

    From his vow to create “Open for Business” zones to attract large companies that would be exempt from collective bargaining law, to a war on drugs focused on arrest and prosecution, LePage rolled out sweeping policy initiatives that will serve to define his bid for a second term.

    Even his call for a statewide referendum to ask Maine voters if they want to support $100 million in tax relief in exchange for $100 million in reduced government spending appeared to double as a campaign strategy to mobilize voters.”

Reactions to the governor’s speech by Democrats and a large number of organizations from around the state will be shared in a follow up post.

Full video of the Governor’s address is being shared in 3 parts; this is the first portion.
PART 2 
PART 3
Photos taken from within the House chamber include some from the Democratic leadership press conference held immediately after the conclusion of LePage’s speech.

Text of Governor LePage’s 14 page speech, as prepared for delivery

    Chief Justice Saufley, members of the 126th Legislature, distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens:

    Tonight, I am here to update you, the people of Maine, about the condition of our great state.

    Governor Paul LePage motions to Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley during his State of the State address

    Governor Paul LePage motions to Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley during his State of the State address

    First, I must recognize a few individuals. To my lovely wife Ann and children—please stand—I would not be here tonight without you. Ann, you have made Maine proud as our First Lady.

    Staff Sergeant Douglas Connolly, the military herald this evening, thank you for your courageous service to our state and nation.

    As we thank our men and women in uniform, we are reminded of those who are not with us. Bill Knight greeted thousands of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at Bangor International Airport.

    A World War II veteran, Bill was part of the Greatest Generation. He died on Christmas Day at age 91. He made greeting the troops his life’s most important duty.

    Another veteran who is not here tonight is someone many in this chamber know and respect. Michael Cianchette, who was my chief legal counsel, is now deployed to Afghanistan.

    Mike is truly one of Maine’s best and brightest, and we send him our best wishes for a safe return home. Mike’s lovely wife, Michelle, is here with us tonight. Michelle, please stand.

    Our administration is working hard so young Mainers like Mike and Michelle can continue to live and work in our state. We want our young families to enjoy a growing economy that allows them to prosper and succeed.

    Mainers are a breed apart. Many of us value our individuality. We work hard. We take care of each other.

    I love my state. I am proud to call myself a Mainer. I want every Mainer to succeed and prosper. But Maine is at a crossroads. We have huge challenges.

    Higher taxes and bloated government have not improved our lives. Higher energy costs have not attracted major investments to Maine. More welfare has not led to prosperity. It has not broken the cycle of generational poverty.

    We cannot return to the same failed policies of the past 40 years. We are better than that. We must be bold. We must have the courage to make the tough decisions.

    We can do better. We will do better.

lepage sots angry selfJOBS/ECONOMY

    We must keep our young people in Maine. Recently, I asked some Bowdoin College students, “What can we do to keep you here?” One of them was Gregoire Faucher from Madawaska. He is eager to hear what the future of Maine holds for him. Comment ca va, Gregoire? Ca me fait plasir de vous avoir ici ce soir.

    Unfortunately, Gregoire hears more about job prospects in Boston or New York or even New Hampshire than right here in Maine. He wants to stay in Maine. But he may have to leave to find higher-paying jobs and better opportunities.

    Greg and his classmates are the kind of young people we need to grow our state’s economy. We must create a business climate that encourages investment that will employ Maine people.

    Recruiting job creators to come to Maine is not easy. The global competition is fierce. Investment capital goes where it is welcomed and stays where it is appreciated.

    As Winston Churchill said: “Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.”

    Since we took office, we have made Maine more competitive. Maine’s unemployment rate has fallen to 6.2%. It’s the lowest since 2008. Almost 13,000 new private-sector jobs have been created since we took office.

    We reduced bureaucratic red tape.

    We cut the automatic increase to the gas tax.

    We eliminated almost $2 billion in pension debt.

    We right-sized government.

    We found efficiencies within state agencies. My proudest achievement: paying $750 million in welfare debt to Maine’s hospitals. It sent the message that, in Maine, we pay our bills.

    Because of our efforts, good-paying jobs are being created all over the state.

    • In Portland, the Eimskip shipping service.
    • In Wilton, Barclaycards.
    • In Brunswick, Tempus Jets.
    • In Nashville Plantation, Irving Forest Products.

    More jobs have been added at such world-class companies as:

    • Maine Wood Concepts in New Vineyard.
    • Molnlycke Health Care in Wiscasset.
    • Hinckley Yachts in Trenton.

    We are a state of entrepreneurial “doers.” There are 40,000 small businesses in Maine. Our state has roughly 130,000 microbusinesses. They employ 170,000 people. They drive our economy. If they could each add one more job, that would transform our economy.

    Nicole Snow of Sebec is a very successful micro-entrepreneur. She created Darn Good Yarn, and she does all of her business online. Nicole is growing her company into a million-dollar business—thanks to the internet. Nicole, please stand.

    Having spent my career in business, I know what grows an economy. But there is a major push by many in this chamber to maintain the status quo.

    Liberal politicians are taking us down a dangerous path—a path that is unsustainable. They want a massive expansion of Maine’s welfare state. Expanded welfare does not break the cycle of generational poverty. It breaks the budget.

    In 1935 during the height of the Great Depression, FDR—the father of the New Deal—warned against welfare dependency. He said: “To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit … The federal government must and shall quit this business of relief.”

    Big, expensive welfare programs riddled with fraud and abuse threaten our future. Too many Mainers are dependent on government handouts.

    Government dependency has not—and never will—create prosperity.

lepage 126th wholeMEDICAID EXPANSION

    Maine expanded welfare over a decade ago. Now MaineCare alone is consuming 25 percent of our General Fund dollars. The result?

    We are taking money away from:

    • Mental health services
    • Nursing homes
    • Job training
    • Education
    • Roads
    • Law enforcement
    • Natural resources

    Maine’s welfare expansion resulted in 750 million dollars of hospital debt. We just paid it off. Some want to repeat that mistake.

    Look at the facts. Welfare expansion will cost Mainers at least $800 million over the next decade. It will cost Maine taxpayers over $150 million in the next three years. Maine’s current welfare system is failing:

    • Our children
    • Our elderly
    • Our disabled
    • Our mentally ill

    Thousands of our most vulnerable citizens are on waitlists for services. They need your compassion.

    Michael Levasseur of Carmel has autism and needs care 24/7. Michael is here tonight with his parents, Cynthia and Paul. Cynthia had to quit her job to care for her son, and they had to downsize their house to make ends meet.

    With services, Michael could get a job coach, assisted-living accommodations and participate in a day program. Maine lawmakers must address these waiting lists. Michael deserves your compassion.

    We must set priorities on who will get services with our limited resources. Money may grow on trees in Washington, D.C., but we cannot count on promises of federal windfalls to pay for our services.

    Let’s be clear. Maine will not get 100 percent federal funding for welfare expansion. Maine already expanded. That means the federal government would give us less money than other states that are expanding now.

    Adding another hundred thousand people to our broken welfare system is insanity. It is unaffordable. It is fiscally irresponsible. Expanding welfare is a bad deal for working Mainers who have to foot the bill.

    Liberals believe that giving free health care to able-bodied adults, while leaving our most vulnerable in the cold, is compassionate. I disagree.

    We must show compassion for all Maine people. We must protect our hard-working families from the higher insurance premiums and higher taxes that will result from further expansion. Do not focus on the next election. You must focus on the next generation.

GOP rises to applaud as LePage restates his views on EBT fraud, which his own documentation found to be at a rate of 0.2%.

GOP rises to applaud as LePage restates his views on EBT fraud, which his own documentation found to be at a rate of 0.2%.

WELFARE REFORM


    We owe the next generation a society that provides them with prosperity and opportunity, not welfare and entitlements.

    I will not tolerate the abuse of welfare benefits. Maine’s limited resources must be reserved for the truly needy. Maine EBT cards provide cash for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This cash is supposed to purchase household items for needy children.

    Every dollar that goes to buy cigarettes, alcohol or lottery tickets is a dollar taken away from a needy child, family or others who need services.

    My proposal will prohibit TANF funds from being used for alcohol, tobacco, gambling and other adult entertainment. We will limit the use of Maine EBT cards to Maine—not Hawaii, not Florida.

    If you want to ask the taxpayers for money, you should make a good-faith effort to get a job first. We will require those seeking welfare, if able, to look for a job before applying for TANF benefits.

    Maine taxpayers are being punished because our welfare program far exceeds the federal guidelines. Maine has been so lenient with its work exemptions, the federal government has fined us millions of dollars in penalties. We must eliminate exemptions that excuse TANF recipients from work.

    There is no excuse for able-bodied adults to spend a lifetime on welfare at the expense of hard-working, struggling Mainers. That is not what I call compassion. As John F. Kennedy said in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” These are words that still ring true today.

EDUCATION

    I know generational poverty. But I escaped generational poverty, and lived the American Dream. Some caring Maine families took me in from the streets of Lewiston and gave me the guidance I needed to succeed.

    I have said it many times. Education saved my life. Throwing money at poverty will not end poverty. Education and mentoring will end poverty.

    Our bridge year programs are providing educational opportunities for Maine students. The Business Academy in Biddeford recently presented 33 students with a total of 126 college credits. We saved these students thousands of dollars in college tuition.

    In Fort Kent, 17 students have completed their freshman year at college upon graduating high school.

    This spring, students in Hermon will graduate high school with diplomas and technical proficiencies and trade licenses. Many lawmakers, the union and school superintendents have opposed our reforms at every step. But I vow to always put our students and our teachers first.

lepage sotsINFRASTRUCTURE

    To strengthen Maine’s economy, we must invest our resources to improve infrastructure, reduce taxes and lower energy costs for homeowners and businesses. Industry needs infrastructure to move goods and services at the speed of business.

    Over the next three years, MaineDOT will invest over $2 billion in infrastructure improvements.

    We will repair or replace 54 bridges and reconstruct hundreds of miles of state roads. We will improve our ports, rail, airports and transit infrastructure. The plan supports over 25,000 jobs in highway and bridge projects. Thousands more jobs will be supported by the plan’s investments in ports, rail, ferries and buses. That’s putting Maine to work.

ENERGY


    But we still face barriers that make Maine less competitive. Heating and electricity costs remain a major obstacle.

    Our homeowners spend well over $3,000 a year to heat their homes. That’s nearly double the national average. Maine families know that this winter has been more challenging than most.

    Distribution of natural gas expanded this year in Southern and Central Maine. Mainers are saving more than a thousand dollars a year by converting to natural gas.

    More funding is now available to help Mainers convert to more affordable heating systems. These systems include wood pellets, advanced oil systems, natural gas systems, energy efficiency improvements, heat pumps – anything that will cut costs for Maine homes.

    High electricity costs make it very difficult to attract business. My administration is working to expand pipeline capacity from Pennsylvania to take full advantage of the natural gas supplies in that state.

    Also, our neighbors in Quebec have the best clean-energy resources on the planet. My Administration is fighting for access to this cost-effective and clean source of electricity along with the rest of New England.

    Many lawmakers have chosen to support powerful special interest groups over the needs of Maine’s ratepayers. Let’s be clear. I do not favor one form of energy over another. I am on the side of those who want to lower the costs for working Maine families. Whose side are you on?

“OPEN FOR BUSINESS ZONES”


    Tonight I am proposing a bold new idea to attract companies that will invest more than $50 million and create more than 1,500 jobs.

    My proposal will offer valuable incentives for companies that choose to locate in certain areas. They are called “Open for Business Zones.”

    “Open for Business Zones” will offer discounted electricity rates; employment tax benefits; and provide access to capital.

    Companies in these zones will get assistance to help recruit and train workers.

    Employees in these zones will not be forced to join labor unions. They will not be forced to pay dues or fees to labor unions. This will allow Maine to compete with right-to-work states.

    Companies in these zones must show preference to Maine workers, companies and bidders.

    Our proposal combines the kinds of incentives that other states have used successfully to attract major investment. We must be able to compete with them. We must be bold.

    We must show young people like Gregoire that we are serious about providing good-paying jobs and opportunities for him and his classmates.

TAX REFORM

    States with the highest economic growth often have the lowest overall tax burdens.

    We are working hard to combat Maine’s reputation as a high-tax state. We passed the largest tax cut in Maine’s history. Two-thirds of Maine taxpayers will get income-tax relief. Liberals call it a “tax break for the rich.” But 70,000 low-income Mainers will no longer pay income tax.

    We cut taxes for the working poor. This is compassion. We put money in people’s pockets. We told the business community we are serious about tax reform. I am proud of the progress we made. But we need to do more.

    Our tax system is out of date. It is not competitive with other states. So let’s ask Mainers in a statewide referendum if they want to lower taxes.

    We must lower our income tax rates and eliminate the estate tax to bring Maine’s tax system into the 21st century. This would make Maine more attractive for people to work and raise their families here. It would encourage retirees to stay in Maine.

    This will protect our working-class families from bearing an unfair tax burden.

    My proposal also includes a limit on the growth of state spending. This will provide much-needed relief to Maine’s taxpayers.

    Let’s stop arguing about tax reform. Let’s ask the people who really matter. Let’s ask Maine’s hardworking taxpayers. We will ask Mainers a simple question at a statewide referendum. We will ask if they want to lower taxes by at least $100 million and reduce state spending by at least $100 million.

    We think Mainers want tax relief. Let’s give them the option to decide.

1000 mile stare

ADDRESSING MAINE’S DRUG PROBLEM

    Finally, we must confront a troubling epidemic. It is tearing at the social fabric of our communities. While some are spending all their time trying to expand welfare, we are losing the war on drugs.

    927 drug-addicted babies were born last year in Maine. That’s more than 7 percent of all births.

    Each baby addicted to drugs creates a lifelong challenge for our health care system, schools and social services. The average cost for drug-addicted births in 2009 was $53,000. Welfare programs covered nearly 80 percent of those increased charges.

    More important than cost are the effects to these innocent children. I am deeply concerned about the suffering and long-term consequences these newborns are subject to. It is unacceptable to me that a baby should be born affected by drugs.

    We must show them our compassion.

    There were 163 drug-induced deaths in Maine in 2012. The use of heroin is increasing. Four times as many people died from a heroin overdose in 2012 than in 2011.

    Over 20 percent of the homicides in 2012 were related to illegal drugs. We must address the problem of drug addiction and drug trafficking. We must act now.

    We need to fully fund the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. Our police chiefs tell us local law enforcement officials need more resources to fight the drug problem in our state. Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell is the president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. He is here tonight to show that the chiefs fully support our administration’s war on Maine’s drug problem. I am pleased the county sheriffs also enthusiastically support our initiative.

    As Henry Ford said: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” The judicial, executive and legislative branches joined forces in an effort to eradicate domestic violence from our state. We need to come together once again to combat Maine’s drug problem.

    My proposal adds four new special drug prosecutors and four new judges to sit in enhanced drug courts in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston and Portland.

    Since local agencies do not have the manpower or resources they need to fight Maine’s drug problem, we will add 14 MDEA agent positions.

    We must hunt down dealers and get them off the streets. We must protect our citizens from drug-related crimes and violence. We must save our babies from lifelong suffering.

CONCLUSION

    In closing, I welcome common-sense solutions from anyone who wants to put Maine on the right path. Success doesn’t happen by doing nothing.

    Bring me bold solutions. Put your politics aside. Fight for the future of Maine’s children. We must show them the path to succeed.

    God Bless Maine and God Bless America. Now, let’s get to work.

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Boomerang Bills: Medicaid Expansion, Revenue Sharing- Now Right to Work?

Posted on February 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

In 2011, Maine Governor Paul LePage made noises similar to many other tea party colleagues around the country by introducing so-called “right to work” (anti-union) bills LD 309 and LD 788. Both died in committee and never got to a 125th Legislative floor vote.

Paul LePageLast year the 126th legislature took up a variety of highly politicized and much discussed pieces of legislation that ultimately failed to garner enough support to override the ever active veto pen of Governor Paul LePage, including LDs 1546 (the combined hospital payment, liquor contract and Medicaid expansion effort) and 1066 (the stand-alone Medicaid expansion bill).

The governor’s 2013 budget included at its very foundation a complete removal of municipal revenue sharing, which ultimately was decided by lawmakers as LD 1509. LePage had long threatened to veto his own budget if Appropriations amended it, so it came as no surprise when he did so, but had the 126th legislature not come together to override the veto last June (Roll calls here for Senate and House) Maine would have faced its first government shutdown in decades.

LePage then warned legislators that he didn’t intend to change his focus, not one bit:

    Playing politics is easy; governing effectively is hard. As Chief Executive, I take my responsibilities on behalf of the people of Maine seriously.

    Our Administration has worked hard to change the attitude within government and has brought more transparency to government than any recent administration. We work with citizens and businesses to solve problems. We strive to be efficient and responsible with taxpayer dollars. And we only introduce public policy that benefits Mainers and our state.

    I do not form opinions about policy based on party lines. Our Administration identifies the problem, reviews the options, and develops a plan. I stand by my principles and I don’t know any other way than to fight for what I believe in.

    Maine has challenging issues that must be addressed. While we have the lowest unemployment rate in years, we need to become more competitive.

    Electricity prices must be lowered and government spending must be curbed. I want Maine businesses to have the opportunity to thrive and create new jobs, and I want you to keep your hard-earned money not give it to government.

    Furthermore, the taxes the Legislature just raised on you were completely unnecessary.

Fast forward to now the second half of the 126th session- and once again, all three have come flying back into Augusta.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson wait before presenting their bills before HHS Committee.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson wait before presenting their bills before HHS Committee.

It started with the reintroduction of a pair of Medicaid expansion bills offered by Speaker of the House Mark Eves (LD 1578) and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (LD 1640).

Then on January 17, there was a public hearing before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on LR 2721,“An Act Related to the Report of the Tax Expenditure Review Task Force”, which would work to restore revenue sharing between the state and local municipalities. More than 80 Maine municipalities and schools originally passed resolutions opposing Paul LePage’s revenue sharing elimination earlier in the session; while the passed budget offset some of the damage and monies lost, millions of dollars are predicted to be further cut from their budgets. The legislative resolution was offered by AFA Co-Chairs Senator Dawn Hill (D-York) and Representative Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston).

Among those speaking in support of the Democratic proposal were mayors, town managers, city employees, school board members and more. Dozens of people came from around the state to speak in the extremely long session; here are links to videos taken of some of the testimonies:

Presque Isle
Oakland (Note: Maine Municipal Association President)
Gorham
Brewer, second Brewer clip
Biddeford
Dover-Foxcroft

Other towns that submitted testimony include Auburn, Lewiston, Bangor, Milo, Lincoln, Marshfield, Charlotte, Alfred, Fryeburg, Bridgton, South Berwick, Woolwich, St Agathe, Palmyra, Portland and South Bristol. Members from the Maine State Employees Union, Maine Municipal Association and Aroostook Municipal Association spoke as well.

A work session on the measure scheduled for yesterday abruptly ended when all of the Republican Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee members left the State House last night before the committee chairs had declared the session concluded. Democrats decided to vote the measure forward to the Legislature, 7-0:

    Monday evening was one of those rare occasions when the committee “broke up,” to paraphrase State House parlance. Details are a bit fuzzy, but the dispute centers on L.R. 2721 a proposal that would forestall a $40 million cut in municipal revenue sharing by, at least as originally proposed, reducing or eliminating an identical amount in tax breaks But on Monday, Democrats on the committee voted out a bill that would prevent the revenue sharing cut by tapping the state’s rainy day fund and income tax relief fund.

    Both funding mechanisms are likely non-starters for Republicans, which may be why none were there for the vote. Actually, it’s not clear why the Republicans weren’t there.

    According to Democratic press statements and tweets, Republicans “refused” vote on the bill, or they “took a walk.” Democrats also sent out statements that said they “kept their promise” to Maine’s municipalities, while noting that Republicans were absent.

    Meanwhile, according to Republican press statements, the Democrats on the panel told their Republican colleagues that they weren’t voting until Tuesday, but waited until they left and went ahead and did it anyway. The headline in the Maine House GOP release began with “disgrace;” the GOP Senate release said it was a “stunning maneuver.” Republicans also sent out photos and a video of the Democrats voting on the proposal.

NOTE: This is a story still in progress, as both parties continue to level accusations at each other and no doubt, there will be mention of this event in tonight’s State of the State address by Governor LePage. The latest statement by Democratic leaders:

Justin Alfond, Mark Eves

    “Democratic committee members proudly took their vote yesterday; a vote that keeps the state’s 40 year promise and will help prevent massive property tax spikes and cuts to essential services,” said Alfond. “In this business, you have to stand up and be counted. And the Republicans didn’t do that. Worse, they lied. We expect to have policy disagreements but not this: they have disparaged the integrity of many hard working lawmakers and we cannot sit quietly as they attempt to do so. Mainers are counting on us to work together and do better.”

There is also now word that right-to-work legislation is likely to be among the topics LePage will touch upon in tonight’s address. This has been a rumor for a few weeks now, but yesterday there was some discussion at a pair of leadership press conferences of a potential idea being bandied around of swapping right-to-work legislation for Medicaid expansion.
As a reminder: Governor LePage tried to cut a deal with DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebellius regarding expansion earlier and was turned down flat.

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Dems, GOP Leaders Hold Matching Pre-LePage State of the State Press Conferences

Posted on February 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

In a rather unusual move yesterday, legislative leadership from both parties held press conferences before Governor Paul LePage gives his annual State of the State address tonight, with points that contradicted each other’s stands on whether or not the LePage administration has helped or harmed Maine, whether or not the policies of the Governor have been effective, whether or not there has been economic progress made, etc.

One interesting exchange that media picked up on was whether or not there have been quid pro quo discussions between LePage and leadership of both parties regarding right-to-work legislation and Medicaid expansion.

Here are full video clips from each meeting.

First, Democratic leaders Senate Majority Troy Jackson and House Majority Leader Seth Berry:

    “Governor LePage has divided Maine and pitted us against each other. He’s insulted us and turned Maine into a punch line on the nightly talk shows. Instead of offering solutions to poverty and unemployment, his administration has vilified and shamed working people,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “He hasn’t done right by the people, but tomorrow night, he has an opportunity to offer solutions to problems, instead of the same old political rhetoric.”

    “These are complex problems that require the Legislature and the governor to come together to craft meaningful solutions,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. “Instead, Governor LePage has offered stale political rhetoric, or remained silent on some of the most pressing issues facing his administration, from the struggles of the middle class to federal investigations to department mismanagement.”

    “There are two federal inquiries looking into the actions of his people at the Department of Labor and the CDC,” added Senator Jackson. “And where does he stand? Who knows? He’s remained silent. Well, he won’t be silent tomorrow night. And he shouldn’t be. It’s time to be accountable.”

Next, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Senator Ron Collins (York):

Although not present, a statement by Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau was distributed to the press as part of a joint release from Fredette’s office:

    “Governor LePage’s reforms have significantly reduced Maine’s unemployment rate and the drop is because the people are finding jobs, not quitting the search,” said Rep. Fredette, referring to the December jobs report showing Maine’s 6.2% employment rate and higher than average employment to population ratio. “With reforms to Maine’s tax, welfare, regulatory, and energy policies, we are finally seeing economic growth after decades of Democratic party rule.”

    “Democrats are proposing to expand the very welfare program that has given us a budget shortfall as is responsible for racking up the massive hospital debt that Gov. Lepage and the Republican lawmakers pushed to pay off,” said Sen. Mike Thibodeau. “Gov. LePage has made it clear that he’s focused on making Medicaid work for the disabled Mainers that it was originally meant to help, not able-bodied adults, and I think we can expect him to make that argument Tuesday night.”

The GOP press release concluded by reminding that the State of the State Address can be watched on MPBN, without mention of the efforts the LePage administration made to slash funding for MPBN years ago.

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(Blast from the Past) LD309: Dan Billings v. Jeff Young

Posted on April 4, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

(From June 4, 2011)

At the public hearing on LD309 on Thursday, presentations were given to the Labor CRED Comittee by Dan Billings, Chief Counsel to Gov. Paul LePage (in support of the bill), and Jeff Young, a labor lawyer with McTeague Higbee (in opposition). Young provides legal counsel to the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA).

Below find the first part of each of their opening remarks, with the remainder and questions that followed below the fold. I apologize in that my recording of Mr. Young’s Q&A time somehow did not make it from my camera to my computer, and so is lost.








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Blast from the Past: LIVE BLOGGING public hearing on LD309 “right to work” bill (June 2011)

Posted on April 4, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

(From June 2, 2011)

“A public hearing will be held today on LD309, the so-called “right to work” bill. The hearing will be held by the Labor CRED Committee, and begins at 2:30 p.m.

You can live stream the hearing here.

Use the comments section of this diary to let us know what you think about what you have heard.”

A few of Gerald’s early observations:

1. “Labor CRED still on. Winglass nomination with three more to follow. LD309 hearing not likely likely to begin until 3:30.”

2. “One more nomination to go, and then on to LD309. Looks like 4:00 start.”

3. “It is becoming apparent that Republicans are dragging these nominations out for as long as possible.”

Chris Quint from MSEA-SEIU shared a press release, which read:

In a press release dated today, June 2 2011, Senate Republicans state that ‘Right-to-Work’ is dead. This is a blatantly deceptive statement that comes the same day that nearly 1,000 working Mainers, community, business and religious leaders gathered at the state house to oppose LD 309, a so-called ‘right to work’ bill.

LD 309, which is being presented in a public hearing today, would undermine Maine workers’ ability to negotiate with their employers over wages and working conditions. This reckless proposal to end public sector collective bargaining addresses no identified problem in our state. Public sector bargaining in Maine is a proven and nationally regarded system that has provided stability in the public service, and dignity and protection for public workers.

The statement released refers to LD 788, a separate bill directed towards private sector workers that lost traction due to outrage from the community and lack of support in the statehouse. Referring to LD 788 as “the right to work bill” is deceptive and wrong. This is yet another political tactic meant to confuse constituents and distract from the issue at hand.

Although the factual content in the release is incorrect, we are pleased to read the statement from Senate Majority Leader Johnathan Courtney (R-Sanford) , “The vote to postpone LD 788 is a simple matter of setting priorities,” he says, “Our first priorities this year include regulatory reform, health insurance reform, energy cost reform, and passage of a biennial State Budget that puts Maine on the road to fiscal responsibility.”

We agree with Senator Courtney in that the legislature should prioritize, but this begs the question of why? If LD 788 is not a priority because it does nothing to further the legislatures agenda of regulation, health care, energy and the budget – why is LD 309? With the Governor currently in contract negotiations it is obvious this attack on public workers is a direct attempt by the Governor to circumvent the negotiation process with self serving legislation.

Not only is the message in the release incorrect and deceptive, it is a slap in the face to the nearly 1,000 workers here at the state house and the thousands more that LD 309 would effect. Our elected officials should prioritize, and put people before politics.

Some observations by Quint, once the public hearing finally began:

1. “Sen. Rector opens by saying LD 309 not RTW. Repeating R talking point from news release that Right to Work is dead for this session. We wish. All teachers, nurses, and fire fighters impacted by LD 309 wish that were so.”

2. “Gov LePage’s Rep Kicks Off Hearings With More Misinformation. Misinformation Soundbite #1: He claims some state employees are “paying a tax to a private organization” and he is protecting their rights. FALSE. State employees are only paying a service fee for covering a fair share of costs for negotiating and servicing a contract agreement that sets the wages, benefits and work conditions for all state workers, even those who freely chose not to join a union.”

GW noted some discourse in the hearing: “Cushing challenges Driscoll- If he has a question – shouting at him. Where are the chairs? Is Cushing running this hearing?”

CQ followed up: “Reps Gilbert and Driscoll Question Delays on Debate Over Contentious Bills. Two committee members ask:
Why did the legislature delayed discussion of workers’ rights bill (now LD 309) for months and are only taking it up in the legislature’s last days? Why did committee members delayed discussion for hours this afternoon? Four hours ago a crowd of 1,000 concerned Maine citizens — fire fighters, nurses, teachers, clergy, small business owners — were here at Capitol to speak out against this bill.”

“Bill Co-Sponsor Offers More Misinformation. Where to begin? She claims she respects the Maine State Education Association but supports stopping the union’s ability to have the state deduct dues from its members’ paychecks. This is a tradition that has been upheld by Republican and Democratic administrations alike over the years until this one, as longtime MSEA member Bob Ruelhlin will point out in his testimony … which could come hours from now at this rate.

She also is echoing a claim that services fees were imposed “in the middle of the night,” and when a previous person made that wild claim Rep. Gilbert admonished him by saying, “stick to the facts.” The fact is these fair share fees are fair enough that they’ve been upheld in debates that have gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

There is plenty more; please click on this link to read the rest.

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LD309: Dan Billings v. Jeff Young

Posted on June 4, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

At the public hearing on LD309 on Thursday, presentations were given to the Labor CRED Comittee by Dan Billings, Chief Counsel to Gov. Paul LePage (in support of the bill), and Jeff Young, a labor lawyer with McTeague Higbee (in opposition). Young provides legal counsel to the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA).

Below find the first part of each of their opening remarks, with the remainder and questions that followed below the fold. I apologize in that my recording of Mr. Young’s Q&A time somehow did not make it from my camera to my computer, and so is lost.








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LIVE BLOGGING public hearing on LD309 “right to work” bill

Posted on June 2, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

“A public hearing will be held today on LD309, the so-called “right to work” bill. The hearing will be held by the Labor CRED Committee, and begins at 2:30 p.m.

You can live stream the hearing here.

Use the comments section of this diary to let us know what you think about what you have heard.”

A few of Gerald’s early observations:

1. “Labor CRED still on. Winglass nomination with three more to follow. LD309 hearing not likely likely to begin until 3:30.”

2. “One more nomination to go, and then on to LD309. Looks like 4:00 start.”

3. “It is becoming apparent that Republicans are dragging these nominations out for as long as possible.”

Chris Quint from MSEA-SEIU shared a press release, which read:

In a press release dated today, June 2 2011, Senate Republicans state that ‘Right-to-Work’ is dead. This is a blatantly deceptive statement that comes the same day that nearly 1,000 working Mainers, community, business and religious leaders gathered at the state house to oppose LD 309, a so-called ‘right to work’ bill.

LD 309, which is being presented in a public hearing today, would undermine Maine workers’ ability to negotiate with their employers over wages and working conditions. This reckless proposal to end public sector collective bargaining addresses no identified problem in our state. Public sector bargaining in Maine is a proven and nationally regarded system that has provided stability in the public service, and dignity and protection for public workers.

The statement released refers to LD 788, a separate bill directed towards private sector workers that lost traction due to outrage from the community and lack of support in the statehouse. Referring to LD 788 as “the right to work bill” is deceptive and wrong. This is yet another political tactic meant to confuse constituents and distract from the issue at hand.

Although the factual content in the release is incorrect, we are pleased to read the statement from Senate Majority Leader Johnathan Courtney (R-Sanford) , “The vote to postpone LD 788 is a simple matter of setting priorities,” he says, “Our first priorities this year include regulatory reform, health insurance reform, energy cost reform, and passage of a biennial State Budget that puts Maine on the road to fiscal responsibility.”

We agree with Senator Courtney in that the legislature should prioritize, but this begs the question of why? If LD 788 is not a priority because it does nothing to further the legislatures agenda of regulation, health care, energy and the budget – why is LD 309? With the Governor currently in contract negotiations it is obvious this attack on public workers is a direct attempt by the Governor to circumvent the negotiation process with self serving legislation.

Not only is the message in the release incorrect and deceptive, it is a slap in the face to the nearly 1,000 workers here at the state house and the thousands more that LD 309 would effect. Our elected officials should prioritize, and put people before politics.

Some observations by Quint, once the public hearing finally began:

1. “Sen. Rector opens by saying LD 309 not RTW. Repeating R talking point from news release that Right to Work is dead for this session. We wish. All teachers, nurses, and fire fighters impacted by LD 309 wish that were so.”

2. “Gov LePage’s Rep Kicks Off Hearings With More Misinformation. Misinformation Soundbite #1: He claims some state employees are “paying a tax to a private organization” and he is protecting their rights. FALSE. State employees are only paying a service fee for covering a fair share of costs for negotiating and servicing a contract agreement that sets the wages, benefits and work conditions for all state workers, even those who freely chose not to join a union.”

GW noted some discourse in the hearing: “Cushing challenges Driscoll- If he has a question – shouting at him. Where are the chairs? Is Cushing running this hearing?”

CQ followed up: “Reps Gilbert and Driscoll Question Delays on Debate Over Contentious Bills. Two committee members ask:
Why did the legislature delayed discussion of workers’ rights bill (now LD 309) for months and are only taking it up in the legislature’s last days? Why did committee members delayed discussion for hours this afternoon? Four hours ago a crowd of 1,000 concerned Maine citizens — fire fighters, nurses, teachers, clergy, small business owners — were here at Capitol to speak out against this bill.”

“Bill Co-Sponsor Offers More Misinformation. Where to begin? She claims she respects the Maine State Education Association but supports stopping the union’s ability to have the state deduct dues from its members’ paychecks. This is a tradition that has been upheld by Republican and Democratic administrations alike over the years until this one, as longtime MSEA member Bob Ruelhlin will point out in his testimony … which could come hours from now at this rate.

She also is echoing a claim that services fees were imposed “in the middle of the night,” and when a previous person made that wild claim Rep. Gilbert admonished him by saying, “stick to the facts.” The fact is these fair share fees are fair enough that they’ve been upheld in debates that have gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

There is plenty more; please click on this link to read the rest.

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